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A Brief Study of TSR Book Design
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A Brief Study of TSR Book Design

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For many of us in the hobby there's always been a deep and abiding love for the classic modules and manuals of TSR-era Dungeons & Dragons. Out of affection for those mighty days of yore, I've conducted a light typographic analysis of Original D&D, Basic/Expert D&D, First Edition AD&D, BECMI D&D, and the early-era module designs of the late seventies and early eighties.

For each publication, I've identified margin sizes, fonts and font sizes, indents, table styles, head styles, and individual entry styles for dungeon rooms, spells, magic items, monsters, and class entries. Directions are given for getting the closest available free fonts to match the classic choices, and commentary is provided on the sometimes-esoteric page design choices made by TSR's book designers. Given those idiosyncracies, I wouldn't recommend anyone replicate the styles in this document exactly, but designers who want to do callbacks to classic TSR styles in their own works will find the specifics in this study.

This document comes with the original InDesign .IDD source file so that other publishers can load it up and strip it for parts and styles. All of the book styles described have been recreated in InDesign paragraph styles that other publishers can use in their own personal or commercial products, as well as the blank tables and other page objects. An .IDML file is also provided for people using the free Scribus layout software or recent earlier versions of InDesign.

If you find this document handy, I'd recommend you look up my free Exemplars & Eidolons game for a layout template for "Little Brown Book" style game booklets, or the free The Smoking Pillar of Lan Yu for a template for 1980-era TSR modules. If you're short on art for your project, you can get free-for-commercial-use art packs with the Silent Legions Art Pack, the Scarlet Heroes Art Pack, the Spears of the Dawn Art Pack, or the Starvation Cheap Art Pack, all the product of Kickstarters I've successfully executed.

 
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Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
Dan G January 15, 2016 5:17 am UTC
PURCHASER
Amazing. This is so much win. Thank you for taking the time to put this together. I find myself trying to express this to so many people at least every few weeks. now I can refer them to this incredibly insightful analysis. I love it!
Customer avatar
Tony M December 11, 2015 8:47 am UTC
PURCHASER
Many thanks Kevin, as someone who plays about at laying out his own game material in the style of the games it is for I find this extremely useful, as well as a lot of fun to read. I was particularly engaged by the REASONS FOR ZOMBIE JUBILATION table on page 7, I may have to steal that for my next BX Screen.

P.S., SWN is so superior to T5 (as a game, not an instrument of blunt force trauma) that I weep for the $130+ I wasted on the bastard.

Looking forward to Godbound.
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Product Information
Author(s)
Pages
26
File Size:
9.46 MB
Format
Original electronic
Scanned image
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File Last Updated:
December 09, 2015
This title was added to our catalog on December 10, 2015.